By Andrew Jenck
Andrew Jenck graduated from Tillamook High School and is a student at the University of Portland, studying business and competing with the Cross Country team. His hobbies include playing video games, reading comic books, and talking with friends. He is an avid movie fan, and he will show Pioneer readers which movies are worth the price of admission.
Despite only having the rights to B and C-list superheroes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the highest grossing film franchise of all time and has delivered some of the best blockbusters of this decade. However, after years of studio interference, Spider-Man really needed a fresh start, which we got briefly but effectively in Captain America: Civil War. Naturally, I got pretty hyped for the film, as Spidey is my favorite Superhero of all time. But with the spoiler-filled trailers, the “scary” redesign of Vulture, and the heavy lean towards the Marvel Studios brand name, I grew more skeptical of the film. Now after seeing the film, I am overwhelmingly…underwhelmed.
While by no means bad, it feels like I watched two hours of nothing important. It should be noted that the film has six credited screenwriters which could explain why nothing is fully fleshed out or given proper focus. The story is surprisingly pretty small scale for a Marvel film, down to the stakes and action sequences. I would support this as I do think Spider-Man works better as a street level hero and the tension comes from Peter Parker trying to juggle his responsibilities. However, the whole story feels inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, coming down to Peter’s character development. While there are hints at some nuances, the overall arc for the character is Peter trying to impress Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, and to become an Avenger. It does raise some themes about how Peter may be yearning for a new father figure after his Uncle Ben’s death. Unfortunately, it feels unresolved, presumably to come into play in next year’s Avengers: Infinity Wars.
That’s not to place the blame on Tom Holland as the title character. He’s easily the best part of the film, giving it his all in every scene. He has the charisma for the one-liners, the shy awkwardness you’d expect from a high school nerd, and a sense of being naïve in certain situations. I just wish he was given a three-dimensional character to play. It feels like the film gives us the relatable aspects of Peter but not really. Many aspects such as his responsibilities, money troubles, and hectic life feel glossed over for the most part. While Michael Keaton is fun as the Vulture, and the idea of being a working class man getting the short end is interesting, that’s the full extent of his character. There’s a big twist towards the end regarding his character but, again, it introduces themes that are not fully realized.
Peter’s classmates are also underdeveloped. Many of them are either pointless or just serve the roles of the love interest or the quippy best friend. I’ve always enjoyed Spider-Man’s supporting cast and to see major players either underutilized or absent is disappointing. Even Uncle Ben is never mentioned, which is needed to some extent for every incarnation. The filmmakers have talked about how this is meant to have a John Hughes style, however, the high school aspect of the film is not explored, and just about all of it is shown in the trailers. This could have been used to give the film its own identity, but the filmmakers seem more interested in enforcing that this takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with many cameos, references, and imagery. Even the title Homecoming is too self-aware of this. It’s not enough that Spider-Man is in the franchise; heck, he did well by himself for a time.
I will say the film does have some merits. The animation on Spidey’s eyes allow for great expressions and comic book imagery. There’s a nice reference to an iconic moment from the character’s history that works in this context. The hooded, homemade suit looks better than the overly CGI Stark suit. The quips are delivered well and come in at the appropriate times. Peter overrides the suit’s protocols and struggles to utilize the features.
However, nothing significant really happens. In the long run, you could probably skip Spider-Man Homecoming and not miss much from the overarching story of both Spidey and the Avengers. This film feels like it is three drafts away from being solid, and really speaks wonders how Peter was more fleshed out in his first scene in Civil War than throughout the entire runtime. If you’re an average moviegoer who just wants to see some fun action and a likeable-enough lead, then you’ll probably enjoy it. This film has received critical acclaim, but for me it perfectly fits the definition of “just alright.” It’s reasonably entertaining, and I’m glad I saw; I just wish it left more of an impact on me.